March Volunteer of the Month

Jenny Abercrombie
Have you met Jenny? She’s one of our MVP Volunteers at the studio. Catch her Sunday mornings volunteering for Bhakti Flow!
When did you start volunteering with PYR?
Early last year, my boyfriend and I made a major life change. We quit our jobs in DC, sold our things, traveled, and eventually decided to make Richmond our new home. It was an uprooted time to say the least! I began volunteering at PYR in June and immediately felt like I had found a welcoming community and place to grow my roots in Richmond.
What is your favorite yoga class? 
Bhakti Flow with Izzy every Sunday morning… sigh. This class is like my weekly reset button. Not only does my body feel rejuvenated, but I leave with some nugget or an intention to carry with me into the rest of the week.
Favorite hobby (other than yoga)?
I love to write! My major in college was creative writing with a concentration in poetry. I’m pretty casual about it these days, but I do push myself to read at open mic nights throughout the city on occasion. It’s so inspiring to hear and share with other local writers! In the same vein, I’m also a voracious reader; you’ll find me swapping books from the Little Free Library outside of the PYR studio pretty often.
Fun Fact: 
When I was young, wanted so badly to live in the rainforest and be the next Jane Goodall. I would stay inside during recess to study primate flashcards. I decorated my bedroom like the jungle, and I would even fall asleep to this CD of rainforest noises my parents brought back from Costa Rica. While I don’t think I’ll go live with the chimps anytime soon, I still consider Jane Goodall to be one of my role models in life. I love her quote: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” That’s something I try to remind myself every day!
We Love our Volunteers!
If you are interested in volunteering with us this summer during our outdoor yoga series, sign up here!

PYR Helped Me Breathe

Do you remember a time in your life when it felt hard to stop and breathe? Maybe you were experiencing a tough time at home or work. Maybe you were dealing with depression or anxiety.

Was there was someone, or something, that helped you breathe and find your way through?

For me, it was Project Yoga Richmond that helped me breathe when I was in need.

I first discovered Project Yoga Richmond when I needed support the most. I was anxious and overwhelmed before my first class with PYR, but as I entered the studio, I felt a sense of relief.  From the moment I opened PYR’s door, I found so much more than a yoga class. I found a deep sense of calm during tumultuous times; I found myself; I found community.

Will you join me in supporting the PYR community?

Project Yoga Richmond provides this experience to communities across the Greater Richmond Region by providing free or low-cost yoga and mindfulness programs. I support PYR because I believe everyone deserves access to the benefits yoga provides. Benefits like improved focus and self regulation, a sense of belonging, and a reduction in stress and anxiety.

Eager to be part of the community that had been there for me when I needed it most, I deepened my support of PYR through volunteering. I have served as both a check-in assistant and volunteered with one of PYR’s community partnership programs.  Welcoming students to PYR’s pay-what-you-can studio and assisting a summer yoga and mindfulness program for East End elementary school youth, I have seen the impact PYR has had on my life replicated in the lives of countless other students. 

Will you join me in sharing the benefits of yoga with PYR’s students?

As a middle school English teacher in Henrico County, yoga supports my well-being so that I can better teach, but I have also passed those benefits along to my students. I have begun incorporating breath work into my classroom in order to share the stress-management and social-emotional learning skills that yoga provides. My experience as a teacher has taught me that the most important lessons we learn come from students themselves. PYR embodies this ideal wholeheartedly. I have seen first hand how PYR looks first to the needs of their community to empower the students they serve. Whether it is PYR’s programs for youth in Richmond Public Schools, working with ESOL populations in Chesterfield County, or sharing trauma-informed programs at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, PYR continues to work with and meet each population where they are as they share the benefits of yoga. It is this focus that makes PYR’s programs so unique and impactful.

Your donation will make it possible for more people to discover the benefits of yoga.

Practicing with Project Yoga Richmond has provided me the ability to reset when I’m having a challenging moment or day. Yoga reminds me to breathe and has given me the space and perspective to not let a moment of anxiety or a simple mistake unravel all the good within and around me. PYR offers the network of support I need to share all that I have to offer.

Will you join me in offering this network of support through PYR’s programs?

Consider making a donation to Project Yoga Richmond to help someone breathe and feel supported by our community, no matter what they are facing.

 

Best,

Sarah Delaney, Project Yoga Richmond Student and Volunteer

Creating Community: PYR’s Mindfulness on the Mat Partnership with NextUp RVA

Reflections on PYR Partnership with NextUp at Elkhart Thompson, Fall 2018

What I enjoy most about working with the youth at NextUp is helping them create a community for themselves. We allow them to dictate their own group agreements, their own rules on how we will all conduct ourselves in the space. Things like: kindness, respect, listening when another is speaking, be calm, have fun, and no judgment. They decide how we will relate to one another and I believe this is what helps creates a safe space for them to open up, to share, to be vulnerable.

 

It seems that there is a lot of competition for space to be heard and seen amongst the youth. This manifests as attacking one another with words, speaking over one another, trying to make space for themselves. (behavior not unfamiliar to how we as adults can sometimes interact). In Mindfulness on the Mat, we remind the young people of the agreements that were collectively chosen for the space. They are reminded that there is space for each of them and that the right to be in the space and feel safe belongs to each of us.

 

I have watched friendships bloom and grow. I have observed youth develop the ability to nourish and support one another. I have witnessed young people become a beautiful example of the healing power of community. This is why I love working with NextUp and Project Yoga Richmond, each session a child reminds me of how innately kind and mindful we are if given the space and gentle reminders of our true nature. I believe my experience of the breakout sessions is just a microcosm of the community NextUp and Project Yoga Richmond are creating for each school they collaborate with. And to me, that is truly a beautiful thing that I am proud to be a part of.

-PYR Ambassador, Syd Collier

Yogathon 2018!

 

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PYR’s First Executive Director

The Project Yoga Richmond Board of Directors is excited to announce the appointment of Nadia Gooray as the organization’s first Executive Director, effective immediately.

The hiring of an Executive Director marks an important transition for PYR, as we begin to lay the strategic groundwork that will guide our organization for years to come. As Nadia notes, “The coming year will be about strengthening and refinement. PYR is uniquely positioned in Richmond to offer affordable trauma-informed yoga trainings for instructors as well as for other professionals and community members who wish to understand how yoga can support healing and build resilience. We are developing the framework of a training model to continue our impact in offering spaces for yoga, inquiry, and community building.”

Nadia joined PYR in 2015, first as the Outreach and Volunteer Manager, and most recently serving as the organization’s Program Director.  She believes that the tools of yoga and meditation create conscious, positive change on an individual and community level, and is passionate about working with PYR to make the benefits of yoga accessible to all.  After attending Brown University, and working in development at Garth Fagan Dance, Nadia came to PYR and Richmond from Rochester, New York, where she worked for 8 years in program development and community engagement at Breathe Yoga.  She completed her 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification through Yoga Works in March 2017. In June 2018, Nadia completed the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program.  When she’s not on her mat, Nadia can be found exploring her Church Hill neighborhood, listening (and singing) to ‘90s R&B, and discovering a new favorite Richmond restaurant.  

Upon her appointment, Nadia noted, “I’m thrilled to be part of an organization whose call to action is to increase access to the health and social benefits of yoga to communities across greater Richmond.  Since its founding in 2010, PYR has built a deep, vibrant network, with the purpose of supporting and creating a more just and connected community. I am honored to tap into this energy and leverage our strengths as we set out to grow PYR’s impact and reach in the coming years!”

Project Yoga Richmond is a 501 (c3) non-profit founded in 2010 by five dedicated yogis and students of Arlene Bjork: Jonathan Miles, Dana Walters, Michelle Martello, Pam Cline, and Wendy Warren. Upon the sudden death of their beloved teacher, these five yogis created PYR as a way to make the benefits of yoga accessible and affordable to all, through a pay- what-you-can studio and community partnership programs across the Greater Richmond Region. In 2017, PYR provided 23,824 yoga experiences to individuals of all ages, abilities, and income levels.

Please join us in congratulating Nadia on her new position as the Executive Director of Project Yoga Richmond!

Meet Kisha!

What first brought you to the practice?

Fitness. I was a 12-year-old who loved to dance and be active, but I was also self-conscious about being overweight. My favorite dance workout video was made by MTV’s The Grind (a 90s dance show) and it had a sample yoga practice at the end. That was the beginning of my love affair with yoga.

Why do you continue to practice?

I continue to practice because yoga has taught me so much about myself and how I walk in the world. While my physical practice is great for building strength and flexibility, the rest of my practice (meditation, mantra, pranayama) has allowed me to cultivate flexibility and strength in my spirit.

Yoga has taught me to pause. When I’m having a bad day and I want to lash out, I remember my breath and remember that I get to choose. Sometimes I still choose wrong, but I always have the opportunity to think about how I want to react instead of just reacting. Yoga has also created a place for me to go when I need to reconnect with myself or encourage myself to reconnect with others. I’ve learned how strong I can be in body and spirit. I have tools that help me deal with anxiety and depression. Yoga has helped me engage with my body in a different way that reminds me to love it and appreciate it.

How do you think yoga benefits the world today?

Yoga benefits the world by showing people that there is always another way to be. There is always the opportunity to find peace in their hearts and spirits. There is a way to be compassionate and wish others well. Yoga benefits people by helping them find who they are, which encourages self-love, which then encourages us to share that love with others.

When and Why did you first start practicing at PYR?

I began practicing at PYR in 2012. I was first introduced to PYR at a yoga event by the river. I came to PYR to practice at a time when I was trying to get back into my personal yoga practice. I was having a hard time finding a place that felt comfortable and safe. PYR was that place for me.

I practice at PYR because I love the sense of community. I adore the teachers and volunteers that I’ve met. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and kind. PYR embodies what I believe we seek when we practice yoga: loving-kindness, growth, and community.

How has PYR impacted you and your life?

PYR has given me the basis for my belief in what a yoga community can be. When I first started practicing at PYR, I was interested in growing my personal practice, but the more I took class there, the more I felt called to teach. I didn’t even know that was something I wanted to do, but I wanted to encourage and support others the way I felt encouraged and supported.

What impacts do you see PYR making in the community?

I see PYR inviting people to the practice of yoga for the first time or the 50th time. Our community is so diverse and when I go to a PYR event I see that; I see the curiosity and the melting away of fear that yoga is supposed to be just one way. PYR brings people in!

Aside from Asana, what other things do you like to practice or do?

I’m a great big nerd. I love to read (fiction mainly, but I’m beginning to branch out), I enjoy podcasts, cooking, and knitting. I’m working on gardening: I can keep things alive if they’re outdoors…usually

Practice with Kisha during Ebb and Flow – Slow Flow Yoga every Wednesday at 5:30-6:30pm at PYR’s studio starting September 5th!

Two New PYR Ambassadors!

We are excited to announce that two powerful yoga instructors have joined PYR’s family!
Meet Sherida Kemp and Kisha Hughes, long time PYR students and advocates, and now PYR Ambassadors!

Sherida began her yoga journey here at PYR 5 years ago by attending PYR’s Breathe. Bend. Be. class with Sara Lovelace.  She has remained a Thursday night regular and has been teaching yoga for two years, with a passion for creating adaptive, playful yoga classes for seniors and individuals with limited mobility, and at churches.

 

Kisha was introduced to yoga as a teenager.  When she moved to RVA in 2011, she discovered PYR at a Living Social event and then attended her first PYR class shortly after (Live Your Yoga with Sue Agee).  She, too, has remained a PYR regular.  Kisha is passionate about teaching yoga to beginners, women,  LGBTQAI+ communities, and anyone who finds themselves on the fringes of traditional yoga spaces.

 

You will see Sherida and Kisha subbing at the studio as we work to integrate them into the regular schedule – either at the studio and/or out in the community as the join us in making yoga spaces more accessible and equitable!

The latest on classes and special events, plus an inside look at how practicing with PYR helps our community. Sign up here.